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Circulation. 2005 Feb 22;111(7):846-54. Epub 2005 Feb 7.

Computer three-dimensional reconstruction of the sinoatrial node.

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University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK.



There is an effort to build an anatomically and biophysically detailed virtual heart, and, although there are models for the atria and ventricles, there is no model for the sinoatrial node (SAN). For the SAN to show pacemaking and drive atrial muscle, theoretically, there should be a gradient in electrical coupling from the center to the periphery of the SAN and an interdigitation of SAN and atrial cells at the periphery. Any model should include such features.


Staining of rabbit SAN preparations for histology, middle neurofilament, atrial natriuretic peptide, and connexin (Cx) 43 revealed multiple cell types within and around the SAN (SAN and atrial cells, fibroblasts, and adipocytes). In contrast to atrial cells, all SAN cells expressed middle neurofilament (but not atrial natriuretic peptide) mRNA and protein. However, 2 distinct SAN cell types were observed: cells in the center (leading pacemaker site) were small, were organized in a mesh, and did not express Cx43. In contrast, cells in the periphery (exit pathway from the SAN) were large, were arranged predominantly in parallel, often expressed Cx43, and were mixed with atrial cells. An approximately 2.5-million-element array model of the SAN and surrounding atrium, incorporating all cell types, was constructed.


For the first time, a 3D anatomically detailed mathematical model of the SAN has been constructed, and this shows the presence of a specialized interface between the SAN and atrial muscle.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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